Wildlife Messengers interview in BluePlanet
By Micah Moen
Movies and sculptures: works to protect the Earth. We attended the International Nature Film Festival in Gödöllő. Hungarian zoologists following cockatoos in Indonesia. Scientific work and nature conservation. Coming up next: Scientific work and nature conservation. Hungarian zoologists following cockatoos in Indonesia. Exotic landscape, the rainforest from a special perspective with colorful macaws and an exciting expedition. A hidden place of the Amazon the Candamo Valley at the foothills of the Andes was the scene of a special expedition: George Olah zoologist studied the macaw populations using genetic techniques. They made a movie about the research which became an award winner at the International Nature Film Festival in Gödöllő. George Olah, one of the actors and creators of the film continued his research alongside the filmmaking. We recorded this in the headhunters’ village, and they look like wild lories but their legs are bind to the stick so they cannot fly away. But do they breed them? No, no, they were captured in the wild! With Cintia Garai, his colleague and good friend who also contributed to their award-winning movie are currently working on a new research and filming and together they founded a non-profit organization. We both have a research background the whole thing started with research but we also wanted to do science communication as well in fact, I want to go into that direction… And I’m leading the research part of it but this common interest created Wildlife Messengers that is a US based non-profit organization we established and is intended to make nature documentaries based on strong scientific background to promote nature conservation. Their current work is related to the Indonesian archipelago. Here in the Budapest Zoo, visitors can see Galahs and Little Corellas they are Australian species and have stable populations there but there is a much worse situation in Indonesia and cockatoos are in severe risk there. With the young zoologists we visited the Budapest Zoo as George used to be a volunteer here and Cintia also worked in the institution. Here in the zoo I worked in the house of great apes, with gorillas and orangutans I wrote my dissertation about them. After this, Cintia studied bonobos in the rainforest of DR Congo and returned to them several times. In the Central Congo Basin, where I worked the First and Second Congo War, and the Rwandan genocide mobilized masses of people who had no choice but to rely on the forest, and hence the bushmeat consumption and trade plays a very important role in the disappearance of these species. But let’s get back to the cockatoos which are threatened by many factors in Indonesia. Deforestation and agriculture are major threats including monocultures like palm oil plantations these all contribute to the habitat loss of these species. Another important threat in Indonesia and in the whole Indomalaya region is the illegal pet trade. From the Abbotti subspecies of the Yellow-crested Cockatoo only a few individuals left. Now they only live on Masakambing Island in Indonesia and there are about 25 individuals left in the wild. Due to the global climate change sea level is rising so the island will be soon covered by water and this is also a long-term threat to these species. An Indonesian organization has been working for 20 years to protect these cockatoos. The Wildlife Messengers are now joining to this effort meaning that they are doing research and filming in the area. They are trying to assess the genetic diversity of cockatoo populations. This also helps to reveal the locations and routes of illegal wildlife trade. With these films they want to raise awareness not only to the public but also to decision-makers. We plan to make two films the first is already in postproductions, and Cintia is editing it this is about the 20-year long work of the Indonesian Parrot Project. Our second film will try to reveal the severity of the illegal pet trade in the region showing its effect to the wildlife and also containing our genetic research as well. We still need to wait for these films but the award-winning Macaw Kingdom will be screened several times to the public in the Budapest Zoo.